This dish, kalan milagu varuval, is a dry stir-fry of mushrooms strongly spiced with black pepper. Varuval is one of the typical south Indian dishes, and this dry, fried style is common. It can be used for cooking many ingredients and I will feature several varuval recipes in this book.
We love mushrooms, and this mushroom pepper fry is prepared quite often in our house.
This is an easy dish to prepare and is the easiest of the mushroom recipes in this book. It is an ideal accompaniment to most of the south Indian dishes in this book. If served on its own, you would just accompany it with plain rice or roti. The recipe is from the Tamil community.
The black pepper and the mushroom are the bold flavours in this recipe. Instead of the usual chilli assault, the difference using black pepper is that the heat is mellow and subtle. The pepper goes well with the flavour of mushrooms and the coarsely ground spices. The fennel seeds in the spice mix are part of the reason for the unique flavour.
One of the interesting things about this varuval technique is that the spices are added towards the end of the cooking, rather than the beginning.
We use cup mushrooms for this recipe. Cup mushrooms are mature button mushrooms. Like the button, their caps remain closed, and their flavour is slightly stronger than button mushrooms. Also, we tend not to slice the mushrooms, we just quarter them for appearance and texture purposes. This recipe would work well with almost any type of button, cup, or field mushroom. If you do slice them thinner than this recipe calls for, you will need to reduce the cooking times, as they will cook faster if sliced.
As a variation, we sometimes include thinly sliced green capsicum, which is added about halfway through cooking the mushrooms so that the capsicum retains some crunch.
- 200 g cup mushrooms - cleaned and quartered
- ½ cup coriander leaves
- Toast the peppercorns and the fennel, coriander and cumin seeds in a small pan on medium heat. Once they are aromatic, take off the heat and allow to cool, then grind to a coarse powder and set aside.
- Using a small blender, or mortar and pestle, make a coarse paste of the ginger and garlic, using as little water as possible. Set aside.
- Heat the coconut oil in a wide pan. When hot, add the mustard seeds. These will start to pop after a few seconds – add the onion now, sprinkle with the salt and stir well.
- Cook the onion, stirring frequently, on medium-low heat, for ten minutes or until it starts to turn a light golden colour.
- Add the ginger and garlic paste and cook, stirring continuously until the raw aroma has gone. This will only take about two minutes.
- Add the mushrooms, mix well, and cook on medium-low heat, stirring frequently. Take care with the stirring as you do not want to break up the mushrooms.
- The mushrooms will take about 10 minutes to cook sufficiently, assuming they are halved, and not sliced. They will release a lot of moisture – continue to fry them until this moisture has nearly evaporated and the mushrooms are almost cooked.
- Add the sliced red chilli and the curry leaves and mix well. Cook for another minute, stirring continuously.
- Mix the ground turmeric and the ground peppercorns and spices. Sprinkle this over the mushrooms and stir gently until all the mushrooms are covered in this spice mix. Fry for another two minutes.
- Sprinkle with coriander leaves. Stir them through and serve.
- As a variation, include thinly sliced green capsicum. Add this about halfway through cooking the mushrooms so that the capsicum retains some crunch
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